Restoring the natural or historical state of ecosystems is a common objective among resource managers, but determining whether desired system responses to management actions are occurring is often protracted and challenging. For wildlife, the integration of mechanistic habitat modeling with population monitoring may provide expedited measures of management effectiveness and improve understanding of how management actions succeed or fail to recover populations. Southern Appalachia is a region of high biodiversity that has undergone dramatic change as a result of human activities such as historic logging, exotic invasions, and alteration of disturbance regimes—including reduction in application of fire. Contemporary efforts to restore fire-maintained ecosystems within southern Appalachian forests require tools to assess the effects of fire management practices on individual animal fitness and relate them to corresponding influences on species abundance. Using automated sensing equipment, we investigated the effects of burned forests on reptile habitat suitability within the western portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Specifically, we used microclimate measurements to model northern fence lizard Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus diurnal activity budgets in unburned and variable burn age (3–27-y) forest stands. We estimated northern fence lizard occurrence and abundance along transects through burned and unburned forests. Burned forest stands had microclimates that resulted in longer modeled daily activity periods under most conditions during summer. S. undulatus abundance was 4.75 times greater on burned stands compared to paired unburned stands, although the relationship between burn age and abundance was not well determined. Results suggest the more open habitat structure of burned areas within these xeric pine–oak forests may benefit S. undulatus.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Lizard activity and abundance greater in burned habitat of a xeric montane forest|
|Series title||Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management|
|Publisher||U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Atlanta|
|Other Geospatial||Great Smoky Mountains National Park|